‘Slow down, you move too fast. You need to make the morning last’.
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon & Garfunkel
Late Summer can be a tricky season here in Glasgow, in the west of Scotland. The weather is all over the place: rain, sometimes torrential, sun, wind, frosty, dark mornings, grey skies, blue skies, all in one day! The difference in a September day to mid October is huge. There isn’t a gradual shift, instead the change is more like an ellipse. Like the hill of a rollercoaster, we edge up to mid September and it’s a hurtling slide into Autumn over the next month! Yet it is important to slow down and mirror what is happening in nature.
Late Summer focus in seasonal yoga is on the Stomach, Spleen and Pancreas energy lines. These flow down and up the front of the body and legs, helping our digestion and keeping our immune system buoyant. The element is Earth, the colour yellow. The taste of the season is natural sweetness or even bland, so root vegetables and ripe fruit as well as rice, for example, are excellent at nourishing our Earth element. In class, we work with our own sense of Earth or centre, our core and body strength, as well as stretching and improving energy flow. We also explore our relationship to Mother Earth, working with balance and proprioception.
The archetype for Late Summer is the Mother. When we think of Mother Earth, she is our source of infinite creation. The Mother can sustain, support, nourish, stay centred and steady in constant transition. So we harness these qualities in our practice and slow down.
3 benefits to slow down
Slowing down brings many benefits. Let’s do this one at a time which nourishes our Spleen energy!
Slow down in class
Moving slowly from pose to pose builds strength, drawing energy in. We can maintain good form with our core and sharpen our attention and focus, training our mind to be present.
When we slow down, we deepen and lengthen our breath, improving our vagus nerve tone. Higher vagal tone benefits our overall function and health. It enables us to cope better in stressful situations with a healthy return to rest and digest mode. Deeper steady breathing slows down our brainwave states from beta to alpha, so we feel relaxed yet attentive, focused yet calm.
Slow down at mealtimes
If you eat on the run or in front of a screen, this way of eating doesn’t help our Stomach. Its job is to prep and process our food so we can absorb nutrients. Absorbed in something else, we are more likely to overeat, as we can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Absorbed in work, we are more likely to be stressed and when stressed, our digestive system switches off. Apicius, a first century Roman, said ‘We eat with our eyes’. The Stomach meridian begins under the eyes, flows to our mouths and minds. Looking at stressful work emails or online media, we are not focusing on the pleasure of eating but switching our digestive system off.
Slowing down and mindfulness
A sign of imbalance in our Earth element meridians is overthinking and worry. In Western culture, productivity is highly prized; any opportunity to multitask is seen as a win. Yet as we can only focus on one thing at a time, this creates discord and stress. This stress has to go somewhere, so we absorb it into our bodies. In TCM the Spleen helps digest our food. Overtaxed, low Spleen energy creates stagnation or dampness, which increases our cravings for sugary food, brings brain fog and lowers our immune response. Repeated habits bring physical effects and with the Spleen, we reach for quick fixes like caffeine and sugar especially at night. The cycle then goes on, opening ourselves to ill health. Slowing down and doing one thing at a time is therefore good for our Spleen and digestion, our immune system and overall health.